SGT. D.A. ROPER
FIRST NAMES: Derrick Albert
UNIT: 207 Squadron, RAF
OCCUPATION: Apprentice Joiner
STATUS: Killed in Action
DATE OF DEATH: 5th July 1944
WHERE BURIED: Criel Cemetery, France
MEDALS: 1939-45 Star, Defence Medal, Victory Medal
Albert Derrick Roper was born in Northallerton in 1925 and was the son of Albert and May Roper. He attended the National School and the Wesleyan Church where he was a member of the Wesleyan Boys Harmonica Band, led by Mr William Clegg. The band, comprising of ten members including a guitarist and a banjo player, played at church functions and socials. On leaving school Derrick was apprenticed as a joiner to Stockdale Builders of South Parade.
At the age of 18 Derrick, along with his pals Jack, Terry, Tommy Howe, and Gordon Raper volunteered for the armed forces. Derrick was the odd man out; he joined the RAF, while the rest enlisted into the Royal Navy. Derrick was selected for aircrew and after completing his training as an Air Gunner in early 1944, he was posted to No 207 Squadron, in No.5 Group, Bomber Command. 207 was based at RAF Spilsby in Lincolnshire, several miles inland from Skegness.
By July Derrick had been on several bombing operations and on the 4th of July his squadron was part of a bomber force comprising of 228 Lancasters, 17 Mosquitoes and one Mustang long range fighter for intelligence gathering, plus several Pathfinder aircraft. The bomber force was detailed to strike at the underground flying bomb stores at St-Leu-D'Esserent in France. This was the main supply depot for the V1 Flying Bombs which had begun bombarding London and the Home Counties on 13th June 1944. An account of this threat and the attacks on St Leu can be found on the 207 Squadron website. The force of bombers attacked with 1,000 lb bombs to cut communications at the store. The bombing was accurate but 13 Lancasters were lost when German night-fighters engaged the force over France. Derrick's Lancaster was one of those shot down.
Derrick lies in Creil Communal Cemetery, France. He is also remembered in the Rolls of Honour placed by 207 Squadron RAF Association in Leicester Cathedral and All Saints Great Steeping (adjacent to the old RAF Spilsby airfield). There are memorials to the Squadron on the airfield and in All Saints'. He is also named in the No.5 Group Roll of Honour in Lincoln Cathedral and in the Central Church of the Royal Air Force, St. Clement Danes, London, and is named on the Northallerton War Memorial.
Derrick was aged 19 years.
Those visiting that part of Lincolnshire can see the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster at the BBMF Visitor Centre, RAF Coningsby when it is not participating in numerous air displays. Another Lancaster 'Just Jane' NX611, which taxis but does not fly, can be seen at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre on the site of former RAF East Kirkby, which was Spilsby's admin HQ. In NX611's hangar there is a major display on 207 Squadron when at Spilsby.